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Law prof co-authors anti-terrorism tools report

October 9, 2008

An Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington professor has co-authored a report casting doubt on the effectiveness, lawfulness, and appropriateness of using data-based tools to fight terrorism.

Fred H. Cate primarily authored the report, "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment," which is the product of a three-year study by the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Technical and Privacy Dimensions of Information for Terrorism Prevention and Other National Goals.

The report found automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual patterns of activity will be difficult to use for counterterrorism because of legal, technological, and logistical problems. Counterterrorism programs that use personal data raise privacy issues, and if the programs don't work, privacy invasions are likely to be unwarranted, according to the report.

The report recommends all counterterrorism programs that rely on personal data should be evaluated for their effectiveness, lawfulness, and impact on privacy, and Congress should examine and update privacy laws to reflect technological changes.

Cate is a Distinguished Professor and C. Ben Dutton Professor of Law and director of the Center for Applied Cyber Security Research at IU-Bloomington. Cate is also a member of the committee that conducted the study. The report was requested by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation.

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